Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No funding for social workers means that Boni Bill has no teeth

House panel OKs Boni Bill
Measure grants no money for hiring of more social workers
Vos, Sarah. Lexington Herald-Leader, Feb. 16, 2007, pg. C1.

FRANKFORT -- A House committee yesterday unanimously approved the Boni Bill, which addresses the safety of social workers. But the bill that passed did not have any new funding attached to it -- disappointing committee members, the secretary for the Cabinet of Health and Family Services and social workers.

Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, said the Cabinet could find money within its budget to begin addressing problems and that the bill was a good start. The bill does not provide additional funding, but it does allow the cabinet to shift funds from other areas within the cabinet."It meets all the needs that we have addressed to protect the social workers," Burch said.

That wasn't enough for Charles Wells, executive director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees.

"It has everything that we've been asking for, yes," Wells told the committee. "But it's pretty much useless if we don't fund it."

Boni Frederick, for whom the bill is named, was slain in October while supervising a visit between a toddler and his biological mother. The bill as passed gives social workers access to criminal background checks, creates a way to track incidents with clients and forms a task-force to examine staffing.

Patricia Pregliasco, a social worker from Jefferson County who came to the hearing, said that the situation was desperate. The state needs more social workers, she said, adding that they are overstaffed, undersupervised and that social workers had too high a caseload.

"It's hard to make the right decisions when we have all of that over our heads," she said.

Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher has asked for more than $18 million to allow the cabinet to hire more than 300 social workers and staff, open visitation centers for foster children and their biological parents and provide better safety measures.


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